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OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week

swb But is it that easy? (230 comments)

For a handful of developers to just "run through the code" and fix everything that easily? And do it quickly, without introducing other bugs?

I am not a developer, but I can remember writing software whether for BASIC, Pascal or Perl and going back to fix or extend something and seeing stuff and saying "Why did I do it that way?" and making changes that I'm not honestly sure were "improvements" except for they seemed like improvements at the time even though they may have created new bugs.

I don't know anything about the internals of OpenSSL so maybe it is that easy, but it makes me wonder why it hasn't been done before. But I suspect it is complex and having a lot of people committing changes all at once seems like it runs the risk of working a cross-purposes without a lot of coordination (which, maybe they have).

7 hours ago
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Microsoft Plans $1 Billion Server Farm In Iowa

swb Alternative power? (84 comments)

Are they going to run it off any alternative power sources?

I could see a pig shit methane plant, Iowa produces 1/4 of all pork in the US.

yesterday
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Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

swb Re:"Current infrastructure" (351 comments)

I think it's a scaling problem that affects not just local distribution but all distribution and even generation.

There's roughly 200 million passenger vehicles in the US, if 20% of them switched to electric you have a new total electrical load of 400 gigawatts. I think there are significant power scaling issues there that are hard to offset (eg, night charging, on-site solar, new efficiencies in other consumption, etc). Even if you cut it by a factor of 10, it's still a lot of power consumption that just doesn't exist now.

I'm skeptical that adoption will grow that fast for all kinds of reasons (cost, consumer acceptance, battery availability, etc) but I'm also skeptical that the power network can scale fast, either.

2 days ago
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Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops

swb Re:Which is why the smart grow underground (256 comments)

A guy I used to know in college was from a rural area. There was a small river that was navigable by canoe, and his brother used to go canoeing in the spring and plant seeds along the river.

He'd make a few trips during the summer to check up on them, in the fall he'd come by, cut them down to dry and then make one last trip to pick up the most promising plants.

2 days ago
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Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

swb "Current infrastructure" (351 comments)

I'm curious if the residential electric grid (the part in most single-family home residential neighborhoods) is up to the task of charging electric cars if there's some rapid shift to EVs.

There's maybe 50 houses on my block, and say 75 cars. If half go to a Tesla-style car and charge at 10kW, my block alone suddenly has a new load on the neighborhood grid of nearly 400kW. Are we wired for that, especially in A/C season?

Suddenly that looks like a whole lot of grid demand.

2 days ago
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SSD-HDD Price Gap Won't Go Away Anytime Soon

swb Re:We do not need solid state to replace platter d (253 comments)

I think the theory behind caching is that what *should* work best is just keeping a list of the most frequently accessed blocks on flash, since, well, that's what you access most frequently. I would be nice to have a config tool that would be able to flag file(s) or directories as "always-cache".

I think the parent is mostly right in that most of the hybrid drives just have too little flash to really provide a lot of meaningful acceleration. 8 GB just doesn't cut it against 750 GB of platter. More flash capacity would also allow you to reserve some meaningful space to cache disk writes.

3 days ago
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Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

swb Spectrum sharing? (91 comments)

I can't but help think that there needs to be some way to share or combine spectrum between carriers. It seems grossly inefficient to have a geographic footprint served by multiple carriers over a wide spectrum but have phones that can only talk on part of it due to arbitrary division by the carriers.

It also seems like it creates such ridiculous barriers to entry that competition is inherently limited because the requirements to being a carrier are so large -- you need radio spectrum and broad coverage.

I think there should be some kind of scheme where handsets work on all possible spectrum and carriers are forced to allow connections from all devices. When a subscriber from carrier A gets on tower run by carrier B, carrier B needs to handle their connection and backhaul at some defined cost. A system of backend accounting to balance the cross-carrier connection charges could take into account the usage of each other's infrastructure, with charges reduced depending on the carrier's infrastructure investment at the specific cell site (ie, if carrier A has a backhaul presence but not RF presence at a site, their usage costs would be proportionally less.

It would be in the carriers best interest to have their own towers to offset backend costs. The benefit to consumers would be better coverage, since any one cell tower could offer maximum spectrum coverage resulting in fewer overall towers needed.

3 days ago
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Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

swb Re:"Feel Like a Number" (146 comments)

"I am not a man, I am a free number!"

3 days ago
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FBI Drone Deployment Timeline

swb "Drone" -- the "cloud" of aviation? (33 comments)

I think we're getting to the point where "drone" has become a generic buzzword for any kind of remotely piloted aircraft that can do any kind of visual surveillance, whether it's a $100 toy that can take pictures of my back yard or a multi-million dollar turbofan-powered military aircraft with explosive missiles.

I hate to sound like an apologist for the FBI, and I'm sure whatever they fly is probably more sophisticated than a lot of quadcopters, but I think some of the reaction to the FBI using drones seems misplaced. It's not like the FBI doesn't have access to Blackhawk helicopters and probably more than few equipped with military-grade FLIR & other surveillance gear. If they can accomplish whatever air surveillance they need without burning through $5k/hour or whatever it costs to operate a Blackhawk or the millions to buy another one, I'm OK with that.

I think sometimes the fuzzy definition of drone implies the FBI has this magic fleet of autonomous surveillance craft performing wireless intercepts, reading my mail and spying in my bedroom window. I'm just not sure that's what's really happening.

Of course the FBI's secrecy and [redacted] behavior doesn't help.

3 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

swb Ever switched to the other NRA mags? (284 comments)

American Rifleman is fairly entertaining for a bathroom read. I know you can (or at least as a life member, I can..) get one of other NRA mags instead of AR. I keep thinking the women's version might be interesting, at least as a sociological amusement, and perhaps something to leave at the Pediatrician's office to keep 'em guessing.

3 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

swb The pro-life bit seems off (804 comments)

Another important frame: Pro Life! Abortion is bad, because it undermines the power of the father in the family. When a teenager becomes pregnant, it's her own fault, and she should live with the consequences. She didn't listen to her father, who is the moral authority and who decides what's good and what't wrong. When an adult woman decides to have an abortion because she wants to work on her career, she undermines this strict-father-morale as well. A career is not for women - they should stay at home and raise the children. Pro Life is not about life, it's about male dominance. Pro Life is not about the life of that baby - they don't care about that baby that probably would have little value to them. Pro Life is not about life, because it's OK to physically attack and occasionally kill people who work at abortion clinics. Casualties of war!

This doesn't seem right. I'm not familiar with pro-life rhetoric being about abortion undermining patriarchal power in the family, usually it seems to be a general attack on women, often no different than opposition to contraception. Usually it seems to be about undermining female sexuality by increasing pregnancy risk, which may affect patriarchal authority coincidentally but not specifically. The other angle seems to be a more general cultural conservatism that sees non-reproductive sexuality as a general contributor to moral decline -- with pregnancy as a non-risk (through contraception and abortion), there's no reason for marriage as a necessity for sexuality since there is no pregnancy.

I think it's even been argued that contraception and abortion actually contribute to male promiscuity since they also free men from the responsibility burden of pregnancy. It wouldn't surprise me if this doesn't tie into some radical feminist critiques of contraception/abortion as having an inherently patriarchal nature, since it eliminates any male responsibility for their sexuality and reduces women's value to that of merely a transactional sexual partner at best When the classist and gender discriminatory nature of economic relations is taken into account, women are further reduced to near-prostitute status, being obligated by both economy and lack of male sexual accountability. Of course I'm not advocating this as being true, but it's not hard to tie it together with this kind of rhetoric.

4 days ago
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How Apple's CarPlay Could Shore Up the Car Stereo Industry

swb Re:The Real Breakthrough - non auto-maker Maps (193 comments)

I think the whole point of CarPlay is that it's an external display/mirroring solution that takes over the entire in-car display. Knowing Apple, a term of licensing is probably not allowing any overlay or alteration of the display. The only thing allowed is probably switching away from CarPlay completely to show in-car data like the backup camera or car-specific info.

What hasn't been talked about is whether OEM integration with CarPlay to control OEM-specific features like HVAC, audio settings (EQ/fader) or trip computer data currently controlled or displayed on the in-dash display. I can see either Apple providing generic CarPlay apps (eg, "Climate") that tie-in to these OEM systems or some combination of a generic apps and maybe an OEM app that implements these features in CarPlay.

As for taking over/using an OEM display, check out the "Mimicsx2" -- it looks like it implements the bits for using an OEM display with a phone by basically acting as a switcher and touchscreen coupler. I'd call this basically a third party hardware hack for implementing CarPlay-like functionality. It looks interesting, but obviously not nearly as slick as one purpose built for phone integration.

4 days ago
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Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

swb Re:Why so much resistance to climate science? (856 comments)

This. It's less about the existence of global warming than the use of the existence of global warming as a cudgel for all manner of environmental regulations. That's what's controversial.

about a week ago
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Racing To Contain Ebola

swb Is Ebola a "rapid burnout" disease? (112 comments)

I thought I had read someplace that severe hemorrhagic fever diseases (and maybe it was Ebola specifically) weren't large-scale pandemic risks because they incapacitated and killed people too quickly, inhibiting their spread. Whereas other diseases like pandemic flu or smallpox were a bigger pandemic risk because the host wasn't knocked down so fast and could be mobile and communicable for longer.

about a week ago
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$250K Reward Offered In California Power Grid Attack

swb If terrorism/sabotage was a real threat... (111 comments)

...wouldn't we have seen it by now?

Despite the alphabet soup of government agencies, surveillance and Federal laws, America is a pretty easy place to move around and generally maintain a low profile. And many "critical infrastructure" sites really aren't well defended/guarded -- take your pick, a handful of people with nominal skill and training could cause all manner of chaos.

If the risk of attack was really that great, why haven't we seen it by now?

I always hesitate to ask this question and post too many specific examples for fear of attracting the wrong kind of attention, but let's just take oil refining as an example. The last time they closed a refinery down for maintenance two states away, the price of gas here shot up quite a bit -- we all hear the stories about inadequate refinery capacity. So what happens if 3 or 4 refineries go offline at the same time in close geographic proximity? Are we talking just a buck a gallon price hike, or are we talking shortages worse than the infamous 1970s gas lines along with all the attendant economic disruption?

I think if there were people intent on doing real damage, we would have seen it by now. It's a trivial armchair exercise to think of things that make you go "whoa!" And if you think of actual, organized sabotage involving direct state sponsorship and not just theocratic nutjobs the scenarios get even worse because you're now talking training that goes beyond emptying AK-47s in the desert.

about two weeks ago
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93 Harvard Faculty Members Call On the University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

swb Less than 4% (214 comments)

"Fewer than 4% of Harvard faculty call on University to Divest..."

"96% of Harvard faculty oppose divestment from fossil fuels..."

It's amazing how you can shape a story simply through the headline..

about two weeks ago
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MA Gov. Wants To Ban Non-Competes; Will It Matter?

swb How enforceable are they anyway? (97 comments)

It seems like everyone has to sign these anymore, even me, and I often wonder how many companies bother to attempt enforcement of them for most employees.

Sure, there are high-profile "key employees" who have limited employment options outside of another company doing the same thing, and within an industry you'd be hard-pressed to hide your employment status. A TV news anchor isn't going to don a fake moustache and wig to read the TV news at a competing TV station and fool anyone.

But I think of someone like me, working at a SMB consultancy. If I wanted to work at another consultancy (which, near as I can tell from the boilerplate kind of language in mine is considered competition) it seems like my current employer would have to work pretty hard to enforce the agreement.

I'd quit my job and make up some story about either not having a job or tell them I'm taking a job elsewhere. They'd have to hire a private detective to figure out where I'm working (mine doesn't have an employment disclosure clause). Then they'd have to hire an attorney to go after me.

All this sounds like a lot of money and effort for most employees, all the more so for someone who was really motivated to get around it.

about two weeks ago
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New French Law Prohibits After-Hours Work Emails

swb It depends on your personal control (477 comments)

....and compensation.

A lot of people are told to "be available" or told they will be working extra hours, often on short notice, with no additional compensation or time off. Even worse is the unstated assumption that stuff sent after hours will get looked at or that you're paying attention to the non-stop barrage of emails.

about two weeks ago
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LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems

swb Re:Should be punished (322 comments)

How do they know it is malfunctioning? It wouldn't surprise me if the system was designed to be tamper-resistant, so they may not have even read-only access to the data collected so they can't even sanity check if it is working.

Maybe an obviously broken antenna would indicate that it wasn't working, but I would imagine that might be assuming a lot about their technical knowledge and they may reasonably assume that some minor damage to an antenna doesn't mean its broken, based on experience with other antennas on other equipment.

I'm sure there's some deliberate malice going on here on some level, but then again, making them wholly responsible for the ongoing technical functionality of equipment they have little or no control or diagnostic ability or skill to manage would be reasonably objectionable.

There's also the unintended consequence of overly-severe penalties, one of which may be over-reporting potential damage due to the risks of not reporting it. The last thing you want is half the cars in a sector sitting in the motor pool and the officers unavailable for calls because they don't know if their widgets are broken.

about two weeks ago

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